Prasat Muang Singh, or Sanctuary of the City of the Lion, is the westernmost site of the Khmer Empire so far unearthed, and has been dated to the 12th or 13th century.
Sitting on the banks of the Kwai Noi River, this complex is believed to have once been a large trading centre and probably also acted as an important garrison town protecting the western frontier of the Khmer kingdom. Though it's often overshadowed by Kanchanaburi's many World War II sites, Prasat Muang Singh is one of the more splendid Khmer ruins in Thailand and is well worth the trip to its out-of-the-way location.
As with virtually all Khmer temples, Prasat Muang Singh is a model of how the Khmers saw their celestial universe. The central construction represents Mount Meru, the domain of the Gods, and was separated by seven concentric moats and ramparts, which represented mountain ranges and wild seas. The temple is made of laterite, as are the ramparts and remaining walls. Although their arms have been broken off over the years, images of Avolokitesvara and Prajnaparamita -- both Mahayana Buddhist bodhisattvas -- are still located in the inner sanctuaries and add to the mystical air.
The restoration undertaken at Prasat Muang Singh began in 1974 and was quite speedy and as a result, controversial. Accurate records were not taken and some of the reconstruction work is considered not true to form.
The park is set in an attractive forested landscape, with a small collection of artefacts in a museum within the site's grounds, but it mainly shows reproductions as most of the more valued pieces have been carted off to the National Museum in Bangkok. If you come on a weekday you'll likely have the place all to yourself. On a weekend, there's a good chance you'll be sharing it with busloads of Thai tourists.
How to get there
Situated off Route 323 some 43 kilometres from Kanchanaburi, the park is well signposted and easy to find if you are travelling independently.
If travelling by public transport, train is the only real option. It's an hour trip from Kanchanaburi to Tha Kilen, with trains leaving at 06:10,10:54 and 14:25. Once at the station, follow the road that leaves perpendicular to the railway, then follow the signs for around a kilometre.